What Is AI and How Can It Help You Grow Your Salon and Spa Business?
By David Shannon
Spam filters uncluttering our inboxes. Spotify recommendations. Instagram friend suggestions. Another “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer compilation reel seemingly queued up out of nowhere by YouTube. Asking Siri, “How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?”
We hardly give these everyday experiences a second thought anymore. Yet while artificial intelligence (or AI, as we’ve come to know it) is a term most of us recognize, we don’t often understand the different ways we interact with it throughout the day. What is AI, actually? And how can it help salon or spa owners never miss out on a potential sale or client—and communicate with clients in the way those clients prefer?
If you’re like me (a bit older, kind of sci-fi obsessed), when you think of AI, you picture robots (and not always friendly ones). Various forms of that perception—machines that can think—have been captured in popular culture through the years, from the Tin Man to the Terminator to the entire cast of Robots. Turns out, while some robots are powered by AI, their little brothers—bots—are generally the brainy ones in the family. More on that in a minute.
How AI became a thing
AI did all start (in the 1950s) with machines: early computers that could not only complete commands but remember them. Eventually, with the steady improvement of machine learning algorithms (which enable programs to learn and improve from experience), computers began memorizing patterns and making inferences, predictions, and decisions to solve problems without being specifically programmed to do so—essentially, “thinking” for themselves. Despite this incredible breakthrough, subsequent interest in and government funding for AI waxed and waned, even as the speed and memory of computers doubled annually.
Then IBM’s Deep Blue put chess grand master Garry Kasparov in checkmate in 1997 and cultural fascination with AI hit a new high. Fast forward to 2011, when Watson (another IBM brainchild) outwitted reigning Jeopardy champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, and AI had seeped into our collective understanding as not just a way to win games, but more as a tool with the smarts to help us in our everyday lives.
And how it can benefit your business
Which brings us to you, and your busy salon or spa. Businesses like yours are built on relationships and client interaction. Let’s say you’re with a client and your receptionist and team are engaged with customers, when the phone rings and there’s nobody free to answer it. (It happens—62% of calls to small businesses go unanswered. Worse, 85% of callers won’t call again.) You want to keep your attention on the client in front of you, but you also know that an unanswered phone call could mean a missed booking or new client opportunity.
But what if you could immediately text the person who just called to ask them how you can help—and do it automatically? You guessed it…you can. Bowtie is a virtual receptionist (a bot, yes, and one with a serious knack for talking with your clients) who captures all your missed phone calls and communicates with your clients via text with intelligent auto-replies, so you never miss a client again. Beyond answering calls at any hour, your virtual receptionist can view staff schedules, book appointments, and even take payments through a secure link.
If your customer has a more complex question that your virtual receptionist can’t handle, it’ll quickly transfer the call to your team so they can follow up. There’s no need to teach your bot about your entire business to start using it right away, though. The minute you plug it into your Booker or MINDBODY software, it can start scheduling appointments. Over time, you can further optimize your bot by inputting keywords that train it on how to improve its text responses to different client questions.
And here’s the real kicker: An overwhelming majority of customers (89%) would rather text with your business than fill out a form on your website, send an email, or dial up your receptionist. This is especially true of Millennials, for whom texting is the most common method of communication. Texting is instantaneous, convenient, and can be done simultaneously with a slew of other things we do throughout the day. So why wouldn’t you want to communicate with clients the way they prefer?
The result of capturing all these missed calls is simple: more new clients. More leads. More appointments made. More client relationships maintained. And more growth for your business, all with the help of a little bot who can talk…er, text.
Ready to see AI in action? Get a demo of Bowtie.